How to Become an Idolater in Five Easy Steps

Many people never become idolaters because they believe the process would be too difficult. But I have good news for you. I have come up with an easy to follow plan that will make you an idolater in just five steps.

1. Locate all the places in the Bible where God says things or does things that you don’t particularly like. I’m talking here about places where either you or someone you know might be prone to say, “My God wouldn’t act like that,” or “The God I serve couldn’t possibly have said anything like that,” or “The God described in this passage just wouldn’t resonate with people today,” or “I couldn’t worship a God like that.”

2. Take a pen and underline all those passages, and put an asterisk out in the margin as well. If one of the things you don’t like about God is that he gets angry, or that he either engages in violence or tells people to carry out violent actions (like in Joshua); or if you are not all that enamored with the places where God gives commands, or rules, or laws, or regulations, then you might want to have a couple of spare pens available in case the first one runs out of ink. Just to prepare you a bit, let me go ahead and tell you now that there are a few books where you’ll be doing quite a lot of underlining: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, Galatians, Thessalonians, Hebrews, Peter, Jude, and Revelation.

3. Get yourself one of those blank journal-type books and make a list of all the things that you wish the Bible had said about God. Here is a list of fairly popular ones, just to get you started:

God always acts like a gentleman.

God is love, and nothing but love.

God gives me the warm fuzzies.

God is my buddy.

God never requires you to do anything you don’t want to do.

God believes in us.

God is like a really nice grandfather raised to an exponent of a hundred.

God rocks; and he’s way too cool to ever really get angry.

God always forgives; that’s what he’s there for.

God doesn’t expect me to be concerned about pleasing him.

God never refuses to hear our prayers.

God’s main concern is my happiness and prosperity.

God’s main message for us is: “You’re all going to be fine.”

God is just like Jesus, and Jesus looks just like Fabio.

Keep in mind, this is just a starter list. The possibilities are endless. Anything you’d like God to be—just put it down.

3. Assign a number to each one these items. Then go back to all the places in the Bible where you put an asterisk beside a verse or passage, and put one of the numbers there beside the asterisk. You can do this by simply picking a number at random, or you can do the numbers consecutively. If you really want to get sophisticated with it, put a number beside the asterisk which actually deals with your objection to how God is described in the particular passage. For example, you’ll probably have underlined and asterisked the place in Isaiah where God says, “When you spread out your hand in prayers, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.” Beside the asterisk for this passage you would want to put the number you assigned in your list to the statement, “God never refuses to hear our prayers.”

4. When you have finally completed this task, then, the next time you decide to read through Bible, when you come to one of those passages you don’t like, then simply note the number you’ve put by the asterisk in the margin, look up that number in your journal-type book, and read that statement instead of the Bible passage.

5. Upon completion of this process, you will have designed your own god. Congratulations! You are now a full-fledged idolater. Now, when feelings of worship come over you, you can simply consult the non-underlined, non-asterisked passages of your Bible, or the list in your journal-type book, or both, and read as much or as little as you like in preparation for your time of devotion and adoration.

As easy as these five steps are, you may still find this to be too cumbersome a process. So, here’s an alternative shortcut method. Simply disregard the Bible entirely. Get two large posters picturing a church stained glass scene, and put them up on either side of your bathroom mirror. Put candles in front of the posters and the mirror, and have some matches available. Then, the next time a feeling of worship comes over you, just go to the bathroom, light the candles, and look in the mirror. Worship and adore.

Jerry Shepherd
June 17, 2014

16 thoughts on “How to Become an Idolater in Five Easy Steps

  1. There is a lotof truth in this post! We really do have this issue within the Church… Thanks for posting this!

  2. Hi Jerry,

    This post got me thinking about what is Orthodoxy and what is Gospel. While I share the concern for Orthodoxy that lies behind this post, I wonder what you would say concerning what constitutes Gospel for those who see God differently from you. To my mind one of the most powerful aspects of the Gospel is that it is accessible to all, regardless of one’s theological persuasion. As someone who seeks to be a minister of the Gospel, I believe it my responsibility to communicate this Good News in whatever way I can, even to those who don’t share my understanding of Orthodoxy. In such cases I rely upon James’ words that faith without works is dead. I think we could also render this by saying that Gospel without Love is dead, or more accurately, Gospel without the living Christ is dead. So my question to you is: how do you communicate the living (emphasis on living) Christ to those who don’t share your view of Orthodoxy? Or, put differently, how is the living presence of Christ in your life made manifest to those you consider idolators? To me the most persuasive case for Orthodoxy is the efficacy of the faith it produces. So what does this faith look like for you in terms of everyday realities outside the context of academic-speak? I’m curious to read your response.

    • Hi Simon. It’s very good to hear from you. I’ll try to answer your question as best I can, but I may not quite hit the target because I think you’ve framed things a bit too generally; so in my answer I’ll have to qualify some of the things you said. For example, you say, “To my mind one of the most powerful aspects of the Gospel is that it is accessible to all, regardless of one’s theological persuasion.” And to that I would have to say, yes and no. If you are referring to peripheral matters or adiaphora, I would grant the truth of your statement. But, with regard to central truths, I would have to disagree. Indeed, in communicating the Gospel I am trying to change one’s theological persuasion so that now they believe the content of the Gospel–the literal bodily death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Also, when you say, “I believe it my responsibility to communicate this Good News in whatever way I can, even to those who don’t share my understanding of Orthodoxy,” my reply would be that this is what evangelism always is–sharing the Good News with those who don’t believe it, in order that they might believe it. In any case, to answer your question, as I understand it, I need to make sure that the life I live corresponds to the Gospel I communicate. This means that, since this Gospel was first communicated by a Christ who crossed cultural boundaries, performed many acts of kindnesses and did good wherever he went, and eventually gave himself over to death to put the Gospel into effect, I need to be willing to do the same.

      On another note, I should also say this. My concern in the post was not really orthodoxy as such. My real concern was a plea for honesty and the abandonment of the unexamined, superficial, trite, cliché-ridden, and very subjective portrait of God which makes no attempt to make sure that one’s understanding of God corresponds to the revelation of God, the way in which God himself has described himself in his self-revelation. There are always going to be differences in our understanding of what God looks like, since there is always going to be a measure of subjectivity in the way that we look at the texts. But my concern in the article was a subjectivity that has run amok and not even tried to deal with the texts.

      Looking forward to further dialogue.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response Jerry. I think there is great opportunity for dialogue here in terms of how we can pastorally engage with people who seem to be experiencing our faith differently than we do. I agree that often the language used to describe faith is far too superficial and cliché ridden to be of much use. However, I do believe we need to be careful of disabusing people of their subjectivity. Here, of course, we encounter the classic epistemological problem of subjectivity vs. objectivity, and I believe we are both sophisticated thinkers enough to know that totally abandoning one in favour of the other is a human impossibility. What I think can be said is that in some ways Christian experience has to be incredibly subjective in the sense that the way God reveals God’s Self to us in the here and now is often through the medium of inner experience. The true test of faith, however, is whether these inner experiences can be affirmed as true and right through the teachings of the church and participation in the life of Spirit indwelled ekklesia and the mysteries of the sacraments. In a very real sense these are the objective measures that confirm whether our subjective experiences have truly been of Christ or not, all the while presupposing that we will never experience fully living as the likeness of Christ as long as we are earthbound.

        From my perspective, then, this puts a great deal of responsibility on us who are more theologically informed than the average lay person. When we encounter people who use superficial, cliché ridden language to express their experiences of the divine, I am always curious to probe the precise nature of those experiences, simply because there can often be a richness there despite the seeming poverty of language. I am a very strong believer that both the theologically and pastorally responsible thing to do in such cases is to encourage a deepening of spiritual experiences, since, in my mind, this is the essence of faith.

        From my perspective, then, the issue you are attempting to address seems better to be framed as a poverty of faith, rather than a poverty of language. However, I wonder if approaching it a different way might be more useful in the long run. The real pastoral concern has to be how can we beckon people into a deeper and more significant understanding of the realities of Christ without putting them off. In my experience this happens best when I begin from a position of listening and looking–listening for hints of the divine Word in the speech of others and looking for glimmers of the Christ-light on the faces of those I encounter. From my perspective if I focus too much on the words that other people speak, I will often miss the divine Word that is hidden a the core of their identities.

        As always I’m keen to read your response.

        • There is a lot of wisdom in what you are saying here, Simon. I do wonder, however, if we might be having a discussion about two different facets. You are focusing, I believe, on the experience of faith, whereas I am focusing on the content. So my concern is that the experience may well be invalid if the content is not on the mark. I would argue that there is at the very least a certain amount of correct knowledge about the God whom one claims to be experiencing for the experience to have any validity. If someone says, for example, “I know Barack Obama,” and then describes him as a 65-year old, short, fat, Republican, white man, there is reason to question whether he knows Barack Obama. And it would be the same with knowing God. None of us ever know this God exhaustively, and yet we can know him truly as far as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture. To be sure, there are “fuzzy boundaries” as to what content must be known in order for the experience to be a valid experience, or, to use more insider language, in order for the faith to be truly “saving faith.” .

          What has to go into the content of the knowledge of God for that knowledge to be valid? It seems to me, that, taking the entire NT into account, some things that ought to go into that minimum would be: (1) God exists; (2) Jesus Christ is the Son of God; (3) Jesus died to provide forgiveness for our sins; (4) Jesus rose from the dead; and (5) Jesus is Lord. So, I would argue that, where this understanding is not present, the validity of the experience has to be questioned. Additionally, taking #5 into account, once a person advances in their knowledge of the Scriptures, evidence of understanding that Jesus is Lord is the willingness to believe things about God which the person which they might not personally like about God, but believing them anyway out of surrender to Christ’s lordship.

          For the newer believer, a great amount of pastoral care, tact, and discernment has to be employed. As that believer becomes more advanced in their knowledge of what the Scriptures say about God and his Christ, the expectation levels change. Pastoral care, tact, and discernment still have to be employed, but in a different way.

          • We may indeed be writing about different facets of the problem, Jerry, but I think what I am really writing about is the role of the pastor in the communication of both the content and the experience of faith. I think, if I understand the Gospels correctly, that the ultimate teacher in matters of both the experience and the content of faith is the Holy Spirit. I think that both Jesus and Paul are very clear on this, that the Holy Spirit will be and must be our guide when it comes to all matters of faith. Scripture will help us to discern what is of the Spirit and what is not, just as Scripture will give us a vocabulary for expressing what the Spirit is communicating to us. But Scripture cannot be the end point of the discussion. The discussion must be a back and forth between us, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the community of faith-filled believers who likewise have learned to respond to the Spirit and the Spirit’s ways.

            The pastoral task in this situation, then, is teaching people how to discern the Spirit. As far as pastors are concerned this has to be anchored in a living and active spiritual life wherein the pastor him or herself has learned to discern the Spirit’s activity in his or her own life, and in the lives of those under his or her care (please forgive the gender inclusive language and realities it reflects if it is not to your liking). Needless to say, all of this has to be grounded firmly in Scripture, and, I would say, in the centuries of Christian spiritual reflection. I firmly believe that Christians are best able to make a difference in the world through the concrete manifestation of the Spirit-filled life, and all that that entails.

            I guess my main concern with this blog post is that it seems to bear with it the implicit understanding that correct theology is solely a matter of placing one’s trust in correct formulations of what the Christian faith is all about. I would say this is partially correct in that such ascriptions of trust are a good starting point. However, it is also crucial to recognize that the historical formulations of dogmatic faith were reflections of how the Apostles and Church Fathers had experienced God in Christ through the Holy Spirit as real presences in their own lives and in their external realities. I believe our responsibility as Jesus’ followers is to move into similar, if not the same experiences, not only to affirm the truth of the creeds and Scripture, but even more so to make God’s kingdom manifest in the world. The main challenge is learning how to do that–hence the role of pastor as spiritual guide in concert with Scripture and the Holy Spirit. If only more pastors understood the nature of this role and took it more seriously. A pastor must be teacher, but not only of doctrine. In my estimation a pastor must understand and teach the ways of God to his or her congregation so that the congregation in turn may understand and participate in God’s greater work, namely the redemption of the world. To me this is the essence of the Gospel: that God is engaged in redeeming the world, and that God has chosen us, God’s creatures, to participate in that work. What could be better news than that?

            I apologize if this has come across as something of a rant. This is something I believe very strongly, so sometimes I can put things very forcefully. I do want to maintain, however, that my goal is dialogue. So as always, I am very keen to read your response.

          • No need to apologize for the rant, Simon; it didn’t come across to me that way at all. A few things here by way of response:

            (1) You say, “I guess my main concern with this blog post is that it seems to bear with it the implicit understanding that correct theology is solely a matter of placing one’s trust in correct formulations of what the Christian faith is all about.” First, my post wasn’t really soteriologically-focused. It had more to do with the phenomenon in the evangelical church of professed Christians either failing to take the whole canon of Scripture into account in their understanding of who God is like, or, more troublesome, of outright denying the scriptural portrayal of God. Second, it definitely is not a matter of “solely,” placing one’s trust in Scriptural testimony as to who God is, and what he has done in Christ, but it is at least that. A person cannot put their faith in a God whom they cannot, at least to some measure, accurately describe. The question then is: Where does that description come from? I strongly argue, it comes from Scripture, and from nowhere else.

            (2) You write, “Scripture will help us to discern what is of the Spirit and what is not, just as Scripture will give us a vocabulary for expressing what the Spirit is communicating to us.” To a point, I agree; but I think your formula allows for too much by way of subjective play on our part. The Reformation formula, which I agree with, is, “The Spirit working with the word.” Scripture does not simply give us a vocabulary for expressing what the Spirit is communicating; rather Scripture is what the Spirit is communicating. The Spirit doesn’t say anything to us other than what he has already said in Scripture. The Spirit’s role today is not the impartation of new information, but of convincing us and convicting us the truth of what he has told us through the writing of the prophets and apostles.

            (3) You write, “But Scripture cannot be the end point of the discussion. The discussion must be a back and forth between us, the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the community of faith-filled believers who likewise have learned to respond to the Spirit and the Spirit’s ways.” I do think that Scripture is the end point, not necessarily of the discussion, but of what is to be believed and confessed. As far as the content of the faith is concerned, there is no dialogue, only a monologue. The Scriptures tell us what to believe. We can have a discussion between ourselves as to how to best understand Scripture, and how to communicate its content; but there is no back and forth between us and Scripture.

            (4) The current talk about “discerning the Spirit” is too nebulous for me, and I don’t think it reflects the understanding of the New Testament. Again, the Spirit works with the word: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isa 8:20). And I do not think we can replicate the revelatory experiences of the prophets and apostles.

            (5) Finally, yes, it is wonderful that God has condescended to allow us to participate with him in communicating his message of redemption to the world. But, again, I want to press a necessary distinction between two, admittedly, related things: what God is doing in the world, and what he has done. Our message, our Gospel, our Good News, is not what God is doing, but what God has done: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:18-21). What God has done is the Gospel. What God is doing, through us, his ambassadors, is communicating that Gospel.

            Enjoying the dialogue.

          • Sorry about the location of this reply on the thread, Jerry. For whatever reason the web page won’t allow me to reply after your latest response.

            I think we are finally getting down to the nub of the issue in these last couple posts. And I can identify it thus: I take Jesus at his word when he says that his followers will do even greater things than he did. Within the initial context of Jesus’ address this was clearly addressed to the Apostles, as well as those in Jesus’ larger circle of disciples. However, I also believe that Jesus included all future disciples of his way in that statement.

            There is good evidence that this is the case, particularly within monastic communities within both the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions. I recently read an account of a Roman Catholic abbot who spent an extended amount of time on the Greek Orthodox monastic colony of Mount Athos. The first question he was asked when he arrived was whether the monks in his abbey were able to experience the same gifts as those manifest in the lives of the Apostles. The reason the Orthodox monks asked him this question is because the manifestation of such gifts was and continues to be a daily experience on Mount Athos.

            From a Protestant Christian perspective, I can understand why such accounts can be quite jarring, in that they do not accord with the priority placed on sola scriptura, etc. But there is assurance in this perspective, in that God will remain faithful to God’s witnesses of the past, meaning that the testimonies of the Apostles and Prophets will always remain true because it was God who was speaking through them. The nub of the question, however, is how we understand these testimonies and see their truths manifest in the here and now according to how the Holy Spirit will want to perform God’s redemptive work in this current moment. In my understanding, when God wants to perform the work of redemption God will take the lead, Scripture will be our guide; our responsibility is to follow.

            If I were to summarize the core of my position I would say that I believe God is very much alive and active in the lives of individuals and in the life of the Church. Our duty as theologically responsible people is to bring the understanding of the Christian tradition to bear on how believers desire to make God’s kingdom manifest in the world. God desires that we have a relationship with Scripture, this is very much certain. But I believe even more so that God desires that we have a relationship with God above all else. I believe this is the essence of the first commandment in that our first and only loyalty needs to be to God, even if that means that Scripture does not occupy its former position of priority for us. Scripture will always be authoritative, because God made it so. But even our relationship to Scripture must be secondary to our relationship to God.

            Is this a dangerous position? Of course it is. But this is why I believe the Early Church instituted the structure of Apostolic succession into into its understanding of how authority was to be passed down. Those chosen by the Apostles to succeed them in their work were understood to have faithfully guarded not only the teachings of the Apostles, but also the experience of Christ living in them through the Holy Spirit so that the Church could live up to its calling of being Christ’s continual presence in the world.

            This I believe is the true calling of the Church: to bear witness to the truth of Christ’s earthly life as recorded in Scripture, but also to be the literal body of Christ to an unbelieving world. As Church, we are Christ to our neighbours. I believe that through the Holy Spirit Christ empowers his followers to live as he did, performing acts of power, prophesying, speaking in tongues, raising the dead. Again, to me this is the Gospel, this is the good news that Jesus came to proclaim, and the good news that Jesus empowers us his followers to perform.

            To return to the title of your post, to me idolatry is settling for a god that is not capable of doing that in the here and now. And I believe Scripture testifies to this. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Why, therefore, should we expect less of Him today than what He has done in the past. I believe very strongly it is the responsibility of believers to pursue these things because God has promised them, and also, I believe, because God desires it. The role of the pastor, then is to guide his or her flock into these mysteries, and also to ensure that the teachings and the practices of his or her congregation remain within the bounds of what Christianity has taught and will continue to teach throughout its history, world without end.

            In this light, then, perhaps it is appropriate to ask all Christians: “Who is your God? And what precisely is your God capable of doing? Would you give everything for your God, even if that God would defy conventional wisdom and even seeming sanity?” Perhaps what I have articulated here is foolishness, but I rest on the words of Paul that the Gospel is foolishness to those who understand themselves as wise. Or again with Hebrews quoting the Psalm: “for the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” As we know from Scripture this cornerstone is Christ. This is the Christ who raises the dead, sets the captives free, and proclaims liberation to the poor and needy. And, moreover, this is the Christ who lives in me through the power of the Holy Spirit.

            Looking forward to reading your response.

          • Simon, you’re reply showed up just fine. Please forgive me, but I’m going to have to wait a few days to get back to you on this latest, on account of a medical procedure my wife is undergoing early tomorrow. So it may be Sunday or Monday before I get back to you, but I will do so. Blessings.

          • Ok, Simon, I’m finally back. Well, there seem to be quite a few developments with you since we last saw each other face-to-face! I look forward to perhaps getting together again and talking about these things in person. Will you be coming to Edmonton any time soon? Here are a few comments in reply to your last post.

            (1) There will be a difference between us with regard to the continuation of the revelatory gifts. I do believe that, in keeping with the pattern laid out in Scripture, the revelatory gifts have come to an end. The pattern that I’m referring to is that the revelatory word attaches to the redemptive deed. That is, revelation is not continuous but epochal. The revelatory is clustered around the historical-redemptive deed: the call of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the return from exile, and finally, the Christ event, consisting of Christ’s birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and impartation of the Spirit at Pentecost. Since that time, there has been no more historically redemptive activity, no new redemptive deeds, and thus no need for revelation. The last redemptive deed will be the second coming of Christ, and at that time, the revelatory word will again accompany God’s redemptive act. In addition, I do regard Jesus’ statements in the upper room as being applicable to the apostles and, as you say, the “larger circle of disciples,” but not to “all future disciples.” The immediate result of Jesus’ promises in the upper room is the inspired New Testament and the initial validation of Christianity by the performance of miraculous deeds. But, just like the New Testament is no longer being added to, in the same way, the Christian faith is not normally validated today by the miraculous deed.

            (2) I am not dogmatic on this, and I recognize there are considerable differences between Christians with regard to the continuation or cessation of the revelatory gifts. The main concern that I have is that, even granting for the sake of argument that there is ongoing revelation, my position would be that in no way would this revelatory activity either contradict Scripture, or add anything to the body of material that Christians would be responsible to in matters of faith and practice. So my concern is that Christians who do not believe or get on board with this additional revelatory should not in any be regarded as second-class Christians, or as “settling for a God who is not capable . . .”

            I’ll let that suffice for now. Looking forward to more dialogue.

          • Thanks for letting me know, Jerry. Here’s hoping and praying all goes well with your wife’s procedure.

          • Thanks for getting back to me Jerry. Yes, there have been a number of developments since we last saw one another face to face . . . all of them good, but most accomplished through much struggle and much grace. It would indeed be good to get together and discuss what has happened for both of us over the past four years since we moved to Saskatoon. We will be coming to Edmonton toward the end of August, so perhaps there will be some time in there when we can get caught up. As for the continuation of the dialogue we have been conducting here, I have a few more thoughts.

            As I have been reflecting on the direction this dialogue has been taking, I think that one of the main differences between us has to do with the role of tradition as being a bearer of revelation for the Christian believer. As you may have surmised from my previous comments, I now occupy a position wherein I believe tradition plays a crucial role in mediating the gospel to the present day. Scripture plays a significant role in this as well as the foundation for the tradition, but the tradition mediates the meaning of Scripture to the present. If a Jewish notion is helpful in explaining this, I would cite the notions of Written and Oral Torah. Even from a Protestant perspective tradition plays this role, at least if we are to accept Gadamer’s hermeneutic perspective that any philosophical or theological position is mediated by a tradition. The ultimate question, however, is what tradition do I belong to, and how does that tradition represent the gospel to everyday believers in Christ?

            In this regard my most recent explorations have been in the tradition of Greek Orthodoxy, particularly in the collection of spiritual writings known as The Philokalia. From the perspectives of the writers contained within this collection, the role of the Church has been from its inception at Pentecost to the return of Christ to be Christ’s actual body to the world. What this means is that the Church is now Christ to the world in which God is doing God’s redemptive work through the body of Christ (i.e. the Church) in the power of the Holy Spirit. From this perspective, then, God’s redemptive work in the world reached heights in the events recorded in Scripture, but it always has and always will continue until it reaches its culmination in Christ’s second coming. In this sense then, Christ came into the world in the form of the Son of Man over two thousand years ago. But Christ has continued to be in the world until the present day in the form of the Church through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is the living hope of Orthodox Christians then that Christ will return bodily in glory once the work of the Church has been completed and the world is ready for its final redemption. Hence there is an epochal aspect to my understanding of God’s redemptive work in the world as well.

            To return to the question of Orthodoxy, then. Orthodoxy in my understanding is not simply conformity to propositions that assert the content of belief. Rather, to my mind, true Orthodoxy is contained in the capacity of beliefs and trust and all the other spiritual virtues to re-create in the lives of believers the same kind of life that Jesus led, and that includes works of power, prophecy, miracles etc. I therefore believe it crucial that the term Orthodoxy be understood in its etymological sense, meaning “proper glory”. Orthodoxy, in this sense means that the lives of believers demonstrate the same kind of glory that Christ demonstrated, in so far as we too are now children of God, in the strongest sense of this term, children who have been adopted to participate in the inner life of the Holy Trinity. This teaching as I have articulated it encapsulates the Orthodox, and in some cases Catholic, understanding of both redemption and soteriology. It is the notion articulated in the epistle to the Ephesians where the writer encourages the Church in Ephesus to be conformed to the full likeness of Christ. It is this conformity that empowers Christians to participate in God’s redemptive activity and to literally be Christ to an unbelieving world. Hence it is the desire of God that individual believers do the same things that Christ did during his ministry, thus playing a crucial role in moving world history forward to its final redemption when Christ will come again in glory.

            I’m not sure what you will think of all this, Jerry. But, needless to say, I will be very interested to read your response.

          • Hi Simon,

            It’s very interesting to hear about these recent developments in your journey. And I will certainly look forward to our getting together in August when you’re here. I certainly hope we’ll be able to meet – maybe at Sicilian Pasta Kitchen (maybe not the best place to discuss Greek Orthodoxy!)

            A few thoughts:

            (1) Over the past year I’ve actually done a lot of reading about Greek Orthodoxy, and have read several books discussing the relationship between Greek Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism. I have a lot of respect for the tradition you’ve now aligned with, and I really look forward to comparing notes in August.

            (2) I do have problems with several aspects of Greek Orthodoxy, and most of them have to do with what I believe are departures from its own tradition and moorings. For example, with some exceptions, it seems that Greek Orthodoxy rejects any idea of penal substitutionary atonement, even though I believe that a number of the church fathers whom Orthodoxy would claim as ancestors, e.g., Irenaeus, Athanasius, Chrysostom, definitely held to this doctrine. So we can talk about this in August, along with iconism and perhaps some excesses or unguardedness in the theosis teaching.

            (3) I appreciate your emphasis on the etymology of “orthodox”; but I would also emphasize that “right glory” translates into “right worship,” and that “right worship” is founded on right apprehension of the character of God.

            (4) I am more than willing to agree with you that orthodoxy is not “simply conformity to propositions that assert the content of belief,” but I would also strenuously hold that it is at least that.

            (5) With regard to your thoughts on the church’s role in redemption, I certainly recognize the church’s work here, but I also absolutely want to preserve the uniqueness of the Christ event. Though, in some way the church is an extension of Christ’s work on earth, there is also to the Christ event—virgin birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, impartation of the Spirit—a certain non-repeatable once-for-all-ness that is not to be replicated in the ministry of the church. So, e.g., our sufferings can be redemptive, but not in the same way as Christ’s are.

            That’s all I have for now. Looking forward to August. Blessings.

  3. You forgot one important step. Make sure your Pastor has the same passages numbered and highlighted that you do in order to avoid challenges to your new found faith. Or at least a Pastor that will acknowledge your right to create a god. Isn’t there an app for that yet?

    Thanks for taking the time to write this blog. I look forward to each new post.

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